There’s been some discussion that poor oral hygiene correlates (not causes) with signs of dementia, which does make sense as hygiene in general often goes by the wayside as a patient develops dementia. However, a new study has found that healthy people with poor dental hygiene or gum disease could be at a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers from the University of Central Lancashire’s School of medicine and Dentistry studied the donated brains of ten people with dementia and ten people without dementia. In the brains of dementia patients, the team found traces of the bacteria that is commonly associated with gum disease (Porphyromonas gingivitis). The bacteria make their way to the brain via the bloodstream through typical daily activities such as eating and brushing teeth. The researchers have suggested that each time the bacteria reach the brain, they trigger an immune response that kills neurons. They believe that this process could be one way that the brain changes in Alzheimer’s disease and could also be responsible for causing confusion and memory deterioration.
Furthermore, since some people are more genetically disposed toward developing Alzheimer’s disease than others, the research team also believes that gum disease and poor oral hygiene could trigger the onset of the disease.
This is the first time that this gum disease-causing bacteria has been found in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia patients.
Professor John Crean, Dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry, said, “Whereas previous studies have indicated a link between dementia and other bacteria and viruses such as the Herpes simplex virus Type I, this new research indicates a possible association between gum disease and individuals who may be susceptible to developing Alzheimer’s disease if exposed to the appropriate trigger. Research currently underway at UCLan is playing an active role in exploring this link, but it remains to be proven whether poor dental hygiene can lead to dementia in healthy people, which obviously could have significant implications for the population as a whole. It is also likely that these bacteria could make the existing disease condition worse.”
Is the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia enough to “scare” people into taking better care of their teeth? Of course, we want everyone to take great care of their teeth–meaning they brush twice daily, floss daily, and get their teeth cleaned twice a year–because they want to have great looking, healthy teeth.
Have you missed a dental check-up recently? Call our office and make an appointment today!